DALLAS — At the American Airlines Center, the P.A. guy calls the new dudes “Dash” and “Juice.”
“Dash” is point guard Darren Collison because he, well, dashes around the floor like he’s competing at some roller disco. And “Juice” is O.J. Mayo, well, for, yeah, you get it.
The backcourt tandem, not exactly a well-oiled machine throughout the preseason, is the Dallas Mavericks’ replacements for Jet and Kidd. By any name, the new kids are getting it done in unthinkable, spectacular fashion.
Collison’s quick dribble step, his bolts to the rim and swift kick outs — he’s got 23 assists to just three turnovers in the last two games — have made Mavs fans giddy to be done with Jason Kidd’s aversion to layups. Mayo’s dart-throwing from 3-point land — 6-for-8 Monday night in Dallas’ 114-91 romp over Portland and 13-for-18 in the last two games — has Jason Terry‘s former runway under tight supervision.
Somehow, with that guy they call Dirk limited to cheering from the bench, the Mavs, with nine new players, have emerged an offensive juggernaut, racking up 240 points in the last two games on better than 61 percent shooting in consecutive 20-plus-point home blowouts to run their record to a surprising 3-1.
“We shot 61 [percent] two nights in a row, which doesn’t happen in the NBA; it just doesn’t,” said Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle. “We’ve been on a bit of shot-making roll, but it’s like getting hot in golf with a hot putter, you ride it when you can; the rest of the time you try to keep it in the fairways and give yourself a chance.”
In fact, never before in the Mavs’ 31 prior seasons had they ever shot 60 percent in consecutive games.
“I think they put on a ‘flow’ clinic in the second half,” said first-year Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, who knows something about Dallas’ ‘flow’ since he helped institute it the past several seasons as an assistant under Carlisle. “Dallas has been a great offensive team for years. But, it’s a different look for them, and when they get Dirk back that’s going to make them really potent.”
Hey, nobody saw this surge coming. Mayo averaged 10.9 points a game in the preseason on 35.8 shooting from the floor and 33.3 percent from behind the arc. He poured in 32 points against the Blazers with silky smooth deep balls and mid-range jumpers, splashing from the left wing, the right wing and straightaway, and doing so one game after blasting the Bobcats for 30, his first back-to-back 30-point games since he was a fearless rookie starter for Memphis.
“My rookie year, the good year,” Mayo said.
Also in the nobody-saw-this-coming category is Carlisle being able to stick with this so-called ‘flow’ offense, predicated mostly on not running a set offense, but rather relying on players to move without the ball, swing the ball around, be instinctual and find the best shot opportunity.
It took time for Carlisle to fully relinquish the offense to Kidd, one of the more cerebral point guards to ever play the game and who also had the benefit of a group of savvy veterans around him. But, to give it up to Collison and Mayo, a couple of 25-year-olds with nary an All-Star Game appearance between them, so soon?
“The ball’s been moving, simple as that,” Carlisle said. “Right now trying to quantify this team in terms of; we’re not running a lot of plays. We’re best playing randomly and we’re developing a better and better feel all the time of doing it, and we’ve got to trust that right now. When we slowed down and tried to run plays tonight, we sucked.”
Carlisle started a sentence about Collison’s balance between aggression attacking the rim and decision-making to get rid of it in the context of the ‘flow’ offense and stopped himself: “It would be a stretch to call it our offense because it’s not a set offense, most of it. Most of it is random movement, it’s reading, it’s playing.”
Whatever it is, it’s shredding opposing defenses. The ball is moving, guys are getting open shots and nailing them. As a team, the Mavs are shooting a ludicrous 51.2 percent from beyond the arc and better than 51 percent overall.
Collison, while he hasn’t taken many 3s, has hit 80 percent of them. Mayo’s sizzling at 66.7 percent. From the field, those two have combined in the last two games to go 35-for-55 and 15-for-20 from long range.
Mayo went so far as to call this Dirk-less ‘flow’ offense, his word, unguardable: “Because we don’t do something constant or something you can scout. It’s pretty much read the defense and work off that.
“It’s kind of like, uh, just an organized, just kind of like street ball,” Mayo, a happy birthday boy continued. “We have spots we need to fill (on the floor) and just continue moving and we’ve got a guy like Darren Collison, a post presence like (Chris) Kaman, (Brandan) Wright, Elton (Brand), Vince (Carter), today Do-Jo (Dominique Jones) getting in the lane. It opens it up for shooters. So, it’s been good, man.”